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Walden News // Apr 19, 2018

Walden University Earns Two OLC Effective Practice Awards Recognizing Innovations in Digital Learning

OLC Awards 2018
[Left to Right] Jennifer Rafferty (OLC); Fran Reed (Walden); Kelly Kelly (Laureate Online) and Jennifer Mathes (OLC)

MINNEAPOLIS—April 19, 2018—Walden University is proud to announce two of its projects, “Putting Theory into Practice Using Simulation Scenarios” and “Peer Coaching for Remote Faculty,” have earned 2018 Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Effective Practice Awards, which recognize innovative digital learning advances in higher education.

Katherine Strang, director of learning solutions in digital teaching and learning at Laureate Education, and Fran Reed, program director for special education at Walden University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education & Leadership, were honored for their team’s project, “Putting Theory into Practice Using Simulation Scenarios,” which was piloted last spring. Master's students in Walden University’s special education courses are utilizing a virtual avatar program to work on improving their classroom management skills—before meeting real students—in a simulated environment that mimics a real classroom. Through a mixture of human control and specific programming, each avatar has its own back story and personality. Online adult learners interact in real time in an unscripted fashion with the student avatars to apply effective practices in a safe environment.

OLC Awards 2018
[Left to Right] Lyda Downs, Ph.D. (Walden); Laurie Bedford, Ph.D. (Walden); Jennifer Rafferty (OLC); Melissa McDowell, Ed.M. (Walden) and Jennifer Mathes (OLC)
Laurie Bedford, Ph.D.

, director of faculty excellence, Lyda Downs, Ph.D., associate director for faculty development, and Melissa McDowell, Ed.M., associate director for academic leader support, were recognized for the Walden University Center for Faculty Excellence program, “Peer Coaching for Remote Faculty.” They developed and implemented the coaching program to augment the existing faculty development offerings which included webinars, self-paced modules, face-to-face group trainings, and structured courses. The intent of the program was to fill a professional development need for problem-focused, solution-based, individualized faculty support. Additional opportunities for faculty coaching are being considered because of the success of the program and research findings validating its success.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment to be recognized by the OLC and our peers in higher education for our dedication towards effective digital learning tools and training,” said Ward Ulmer, interim president, Walden University. “Our virtual avatars and peer coaching program are just two of many innovations Walden University is spearheading to continually improve our faculty and student experience.”

Through the OLC Effective Practices program, the OLC community shares techniques, strategies and practices that have worked effectively in their institution or program. Effective practices are peer reviewed and evaluated against OLC’s five pillars of quality in digital education: access, learning effectiveness, faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction and scalability.

“We congratulate and thank the 2018 OLC Effective Practice honorees for sharing their innovative approaches to some of digital learning’s most important challenges,” said Kathleen S. Ives, D.M., CEO and executive director, Online Learning Consortium. “Their solutions and lessons learned offer valuable guidance for those creating and managing digital learning programs and initiatives throughout the OLC community.”

The awards were presented at the 2018 OLC Innovate Conference held April 19 in Nashville, Tennessee. More information about the OLC Effective Practice Awards can be found online at

About Walden University
For more than 45 years, Walden University has supported working professionals in achieving their academic goals and making a greater impact in their professions and their communities. Students from all 50 states in the U.S. and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees online at Walden. The university offers more than 85 degree programs with more than 435 specializations and concentrations. Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, Walden is one of more than 70 institutions in 23 countries that make up the Laureate International Universities network. For more information about Walden, visit